Sep 27, 2021 | Grit
It’s been one year since all our lives changed forever. For me, this is a reminder of how lucky I am to have walked the paths I have, and be where I am today in my personal life and career. I started March 2020 as a Frontline Social Worker and as of March 2021 I am the Interim Coordinator for HDGH Specialized Outpatient Geriatric Services. In March 2020, the Geriatric Assessment Program (GAP) was among the very first to shut down before it was announced the next week that we were officially in a ‘global pandemic’. I was asked to help support the discharge planners, starting with Inpatient Rehab 1 (RH1). I attended the formal Family Support Team training our organization had pulled together, and the next day I got a text from a manager asking me to come to her office before I headed to RH1. I was officially the new social worker for 2 North (2N) - the unit pulled together to support our vulnerable seniors from within our walls and acute care, who were awaiting long term care (LTC). This unit housed new hires and redeployed staff from around the organization. I was reunited with some colleagues and friends I had known from other areas of our ambulatory services. I also met some other new and amazing colleagues and leadership. Together we all made the best of it. We all learned from each other. Somedays we laughed, some days we cried - the fear of the unknown almost consumed us at times in those early days. It was our patients and their families who would reel us back into reality, doing everything and anything we could to support them. I loved the inpatient life, as it brought me back to my professional roots that inspired me to go into social work. I also had the opportunity to help support 1 North - our unit we used as a safe refuge for the field hospital patients who were awaiting return back to their LTC home. It was surreal to support these individuals who survived the deadly virus in person. I had seen their rooms via FaceTime from a few of their fellow “neighbours” upstairs on 2N. Our staff went above and beyond to support these patients and their families through yet another difficult transition before they could safely head back home.Come July, GAP started to resume in-home services for our patients. Our seniors in the community were the most vulnerable, and I finally saw the effects of what the pandemic had on these older adults in their own homes; "safe from the virus", but many suffering from the isolation and lack of services (which was almost worse). I split my time between the inpatient units and GAP. We were one of the only programs (and organizations) in the community going out into people's homes during the pandemic. Everybody was in crisis. Most of our patients and their families, still paralyzed from the fear of the virus were so desperate for help, they welcomed us into their homes immediately - sometimes in head to toe pandemic gear when necessary. Outreach staff were now leaving the safe, controlled confines of our hospital and heading out to people’s homes where we were at the mercy of hoping they didn't mislead us on our risk assessment over the phone. We picked up where we left off, serving our patients safely in their homes. After a few months, 2N closed, and I resumed back exclusively with GAP. In the meantime, an opportunity came up for me to slide into a temporary coordinator contract for GAP. I took the chance to get some leadership experience with the hope that one day, I could use this to build on and expand HDGH Specialized Geriatric Services. Then a call went out to volunteer to help support the community in the second wave. All I could think about were the individuals and their families I had supported on 2N and out in the community, and how the pandemic affected them all. I put my name in to go help,terrified, but knowing what these individuals were experiencing trumped how I felt. Sure enough, I got asked to support alongside some other leadership at a local retirement home. Within hours of showing up for my first day, I knew I couldn't go home to keep my family safe. A day later I left my husband and two young children and moved into a local hotel with two of my colleagues for a couple weeks. That first week was a blur. We showed up early, and sometimes worked late into the night at the hotel. We took little time for breaks during the day and was there to help with anything and everything that needed to be done. There were times when we thought there was no way we would ever leave. I'd think about how long I'd have to continue to be away from my family but that only motivated me to work harder to help the home stabilize. Our team was amazing. I'm so thankful for my family FaceTime chats, my colleagues/friends I was at the hotel with, for my manager back at HDGH who would text and call me regularly to check on me and remind me to get some rest. For the early morning and late night debrief sessions with colleagues/friends, and for the incredible hospitality of the local hotel, the restaurants open to feed us, and for people who donated food to us onsite as well. This past year I’ve rode with patient's to their new LTC homes so they wouldn't be alone, I've packed up my minivan (on more than one occasion) with a patient’s personal belongings when patient transfer couldn't take them and the family wasn't allowed to be there. I have advocated for patients, picked through our community closet (and my own) to make sure our patients had appropriate clothing, coats and shoes. Myself and others have purchased personal care items, and isolation activities for our patients. I've provided personal care, counselled people, had tough conversations, laughed with, cried with, sang and danced with patients, and got to be part of the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine. I got to share about myself and about the work I do (and my passion and dreams I have for my patient population within the community), and teach others my skills too. All of these experiences allowed me to grow personally and professionally. Most importantly, it allowed me to connect with new colleagues (and now friends) I would have never got the chance to meet, learn from, and work alongside. I'm currently in a role that I hope to continue to grow from, and I'm now in a position to support my own frontline staff and our patients and their families from a different lens. I’m now at a professional point where I've been able to make changes in our programs to help address service gaps for seniors in our system (which showed how flawed it really is amid this pandemic). I would have never imagined a year ago this is where I would be today. As scary, and uncertain as some days were, I am fortunate for the all the laughs, friendship, and positive changes I've been able to be a part of.
For myself, like so many others, the year 2020 brought about a unique set of challenges, firsts, and knowledge gained. But unlike many others, my challenges, firsts, and knowledge gained, were brought on by welcoming a new life into the world, amidst a global pandemic. Entering 2020, my family was filled with so much hope and excitement as my partner, Andrew, and I were expecting a baby girl in July. There was so much to do – a room to paint, furniture and baby essentials to buy, celebrations to be had. Although, as news continued to be shared about COVID-19 wreaking havoc in China, then Italy, our worry started to grow. When cases started to be identified in Canada and as the World Health Organization declared the pandemic, it was impossible not fear. My fear was heightened by the unknown of this deadly virus and the affect it could have on myself as a pregnant woman, and even more so, the affect it may have on my unborn child.While case counts soared and presented themselves locally, we saw many changes to everyday life. Working for the Communications Department at HDGH, my coworkers and I found ourselves working around the clock, making many trips around campus (which led to many nights of swollen feet), and insistently updating information as it changed, seemingly by the hour. As the dust began to settle, yet the threat of contracting COVID-19 remained, we began working from home and the Canadian government enforced travel bans and stay at home orders. Though we stayed connected through Zoom and phone calls, it was impossible not to feel lonely and sad that I didn’t get to share the many experiences of pregnancy with my friends and family. Doctor’s visits were solo and celebrations turned virtual or from at least six feet away, including our baby shower.July 3, 2020 was the day our daughter was welcomed into this world. And though the room she was born into was filled with face masks, it was also filled with the love from all those who couldn’t wait to come meet her. Amelia was healthy and she was beautiful. The days that followed her birth were quiet; we had no hospital visitors and no family stay with us for extra help. As abnormal as this was, it gave Andrew and I quality time to enjoy and learn about this new life in front of us.There is no doubt that becoming a Mom is hard; the constant worrying if you are doing enough for your child, the overpowering need to keep them safe, and fumbling through each day not quite sure how you’ve been entrusted to care for this little life. Becoming a Mom during a pandemic while experiencing multiple lockdowns, feels downright impossible some days. The constant worry is accompanied by not having adequate supports, educational courses or family visits, available to you. The need to keep them safe is heightened by the virus that has taken and affected so many lives. And the daily fumbling isn’t eased by being able to do ‘traditional’ maternity leave activities like swim classes, Mommy and Me playdates, or meeting up with friends for lunch. It’s been challenging, and I commend all of the Moms who have gone through this experience along with me. The pandemic has caused us to make many changes to our plans and has even taken some experiences away from us. Amelia has only known a world filled with face masks and six-foot markers. But despite this, she is thriving, she is happy and healthy. She makes us laugh every day with her silly sounds and her big personality. Though the struggles we faced were a large part of this past year, the joy she has brought us and the beautiful lessons she has taught us has outweighed it all. Being able to still provide my daughter with a life this fulfilling while living through this pandemic fills my heart with so much hope and excitement for the life we will be able to have when COVID-19 is a thing of the past. As for me and my little family, we can’t wait!
I was hired by HDGH back in October of 2020 in the role of a RPN. COVID-19 was in full force at this time and had been for most of the year. I worked in a Retirement home prior to coming to HDGH. I worked for HDGH when they were on Ouellette as a PSW on the assess and restore unit until they moved to Prince Road. My position there was over as our unit closed, and I decided to return to school to obtain my Nursing diploma. COVID-19 has changed the way I look at my profession, I realize how important we all are in the community. I was asked to go to the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Center to assist with the homeless and the outbreak they were having at the Downtown Mission. I did not hesitate to take on this position. After taking it, I was sitting at home and thinking about what my role would be there, and what it was going to be like. I was really nervous, the fear of the unknown, the fear of mental illness and addiction and not knowing what to expect, and even the fear of contracting COVID-19 while being there, I was going out of my comfort zone and it was scary. I was there working for a month, and at first I was overwhelmed with what I saw. I am a people watcher by nature, and I observe everything I can. I watched all of the different behaviours and the way the homeless reacted to staff and the testing that they had to undergo in order to stay there. There was a lot of yelling and cursing and even some confrontations among the people staying there. I witnessed drug abuse, and even some overdoses, where we all worked together to save the people involved. It was a completely different role than I had ever been a part of and new for my practice as a nurse. I had to do rapid testing daily for staff and clients, and was not welcomed by most of the homeless population - let’s face it, nobody likes a COVID-19 test. I was yelled at, and many refused and swore at me for what I was doing. It was hard, I felt bad having to do this to people every day. It bothered me that I didn’t feel like I was communicating properly with them, that I couldn’t make it easier on them. I tried many different approaches and was growing frustrated with my lack of experience. I watched the way the Downtown Mission staff communicated with them, and was drawn to one staff member in particular. I found myself watching her and the way she communicated so well with people, she had so much empathy and compassion. I approached her and asked her how she did it every day, her reply was that she loved them, she said I feel empathy for them and what they have been through, they are people and they have been through a lot. It was at this point that I realized what I was lacking, and that was the knowledge of their stories, and how they felt. I wasn’t looking at them as people with an illness, like I do when working with people at HDGH. I was lacking in my empathy for them, I had compassion for what they were going through, but I didn’t look beyond what I saw on the outside. These are people, and they are not well and I had a job to do here with them. I tried different approaches and eventually I started to earn their trust; my job there became more enjoyable, people would smile at me and call me by name and I looked forward to seeing them every day. I worked with some amazing people from the community, paramedics, police and city officials. I felt like I made a difference in ways that I never thought I would. I learned so much by being there, about mental illness, drug addiction, and human behaviour. I was no longer afraid of them. I used to see the homeless so differently, always from a distance and with not much compassion. I found myself caring about some people there. I still think of them and hope they are doing well, I pray that their lives get better, and that they heal. I see the need for programs for mental health and addiction in our community. I couldn’t reach everyone but the ones I did had a huge impact on me. I am a different person now, a different Nurse. I look at my practice differently and I look at my friends and family differently as well. I am grateful for what I do and for what I have. Life is short and unpredictable and so precious and we only get one to live and I intend on making every moment count.
Part of my job as a neuropsychologist at HDGH is providing neuropsychological assessments to diagnos brain impairment in the outpatient Acquired Brain Injury program and on the Inpatient Rehabilitation units. The other part of my job is rehabilitation psychology, which entails working with individuals with disabilities and chronic health conditions to support them as they cope with and adapt to the mental, emotional, and physical challenges related to unexpected changes in their lives. It is the part of my job that is the most rewarding and the reason I moved to Windsor over 26 years ago. My practice has evolved over the years as I integrated evidence-based practice from cognitive-behaviour therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, motivational interviewing and mindfulness-CBT along with lessons learned from my patients. This practice involves helping patients acknowledge their negative emotions and then step back and look at their situation differently as well as identifying barriers, setting short-term goals, and focusing on the present moment. When the pandemic was declared in March 2020, it seemed that the whole world suddenly shut down. It was a scary time as there was so much unknown about the COVID-19 virus and the pictures and news stories coming out of Italy and then New York City were apocalyptic. In the initial stages of the pandemic, to protect the health and wellbeing of our patients, staff and community at large, all in-person services in the outpatient programs at HDGH were stopped and inpatients were isolated in their rooms with in-room therapy and no family visitors. My outpatient colleagues were redeployed to provide support to inpatients and to provide a valuable linkage to their families via phone and Facetime calls. I continued to provide psychological services on the inpatient units to address our patients’ mental health issues. No longer providing comprehensive neuropsychological assessments on my outpatient days, I pivoted to completing brief assessments over the phone and to providing education and psychotherapy by videoconference over OTN. Suddenly, I was reading articles and watching webinars on telepsychology to adapt to this new way of providing psychological services. The push to provide virtual healthcare services may not have occurred without the pandemic and it has been a God-send for those living at a distance. Student placements were cancelled so I scrambled to finish up reports that a University of Windsor Ph.D. student had started as part of her clinical placement with me. We had to change our work habits, pivoting to follow new procedures and rules that seemed to change on a weekly basis. Fortunately, we received frequent and consistent communication from our administration about these ever-changing rules.Patients missed in-person visits from their families but made do with the virtual connections facilitated by the Family Support Team. Confined to their rooms in the early days of the pandemic, they focused on their rehab goals, working towards a level of independence that meant they could be discharged out of the isolation. Over my years of working on the Rehab units, I have been astounded by the resilience of many individuals to cope with sudden changes in their functioning that accompany conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injuries and orthopaedic injuries. Their resilience is facilitated by communication of information about their condition, clear expectations about their prognosis, respect for their goals, and encouragement from the staff. While people at home were baking bread and working virtually, our patients chatted with their roommates and the staff, watched T.V., did word searches, read and listened to music in between their therapy sessions. Listening to music at lunch was one of the ways that I dealt with the stresses of the pandemic. I had the luxury of closing my office door and turning up the volume of the music on my playlist. The orchestration of Nightswimming by R.E.M. would transport me away from the uncertainty of those early pandemic days. Adapting to new infection control procedures, I wore masks to see all my patients and my wardrobe shifted from blouses and dress pants to scrub pants and t-shirts that could be washed at the end of the day. At first, I was frustrated by my clothing options but with curbside pick-up, I curated a new work wardrobe. The simplicity of my wardrobe meant more brain energy for other decision-making and I may never give it up. Staff began wearing surgical caps sewn by family members and volunteers. I unearthed my sewing machine but with no cotton fabric stash (my late mother, an avid quilter, would have been dismayed) and stores closed, I improvised and made caps out of pillowcases for myself and my co-workers. My sister shared a quilting store’s website for a pattern and later I ordered cap kits from it. With no travel, shopping, socializing, or visits to out-of-town family (stay away, they said, Windsor is a hot-spot), life at home slowed down. There was time to dust off old hobbies like handcrafts and baking, go on bike rides and have weekly game nights with our adult children (yes, they still live at home, sponging off the family payroll while attending university online). Walking in my neighbourhood, I was reminded of Marc Cohen as he sang about a spiritual awakening in Walking in Memphis.As spring turned to summer and then fall, there were more changes and more pivoting. Students returned to the hospital, outpatient programs resumed and inpatients had Designated Care Providers in to visit them. For months, I had been wearing a mask, slipping it down to take a drink, removing it to eat my lunch, or escaping it when alone in an office. Keeping two metres apart was a luxury at the nursing station & nonexistent when providing care to patients. Wearing a visor when providing patient care, I sanitized my hands until they were red and chapped. Following the public health rules to reduce the spread of the virus, it seemed like a well-oiled routine. For inspiration, Walk Off the Earth sang, Home, We’ll Go on my playlist.Then in late November, the day started out with laughter at the nursing station, but it ended with worry over a patient who tested positive for COVID-19. Over the next few days, more patients and then staff tested positive and an outbreak was declared on an inpatient Rehabilitation unit. The rules changed; we pivoted and adapted. Visitors & students were once again paused and, admissions were halted, creating a backlog in other hospitals. Patients were restricted to their rooms with only a phone or a tablet to stay in contact with their family. Patients and their families felt alone and worried; if they catch the virus, would they survive? Staff were restricted to working only one unit and I stopped working on the inpatient Rehab units (except for therapy over the phone) and only provide in-person services to the complex care units and outpatients. One day, I provided therapy over the phone to a Rehab patient, and the next day, they were transferred to acute care because they were sicker with the virus. Over the days and weeks, more and more staff tested positive and became sick; twice as many as the patients who tested positive. Hearing about my colleagues through the hospital grapevine, I was reminded of my sister, a nurse in another city who had become sick with COVID-19 in March 2020 for several weeks with a cough, shortness of breath and fatigue. Playing Burden (by Foy Vance) on my Spotify reminded me of the nightly phone calls I made to her while she was quarantined in her bedroom and I would “sit” with her for a while. Wanting to support my Rehab colleagues while respecting their privacy, I pulled together materials from my coping groups and sent out an email with some coping strategies and reassurance that they would get through this difficult time. My outpatient office is directly across from the Rehab units so I posted signs of support on my window. Some staff were off for two weeks of quarantine and others were off for six weeks or more; sick and worrying every night if they too would need to be admitted to hospital. How did the virus slip in? The rules changed again so we pivoted and adapted: wear your mask and shield everywhere in the hospital. Staff numbers in break rooms were limited, so alone, they removed shields, lowered masks, and quickly sipped a drink or inhaled a meal. Mask, shield, gown and gloves, wiping down surfaces, and sanitizing hands. Following the rules to keep our patients, ourselves, and our families safe. When it all seemed overwhelming, I would listen to It’s Alright by Mother Mother.Then, the outbreak was over and the rules changed again; admissions resumed, staff could work across units & caregivers returned to visit. Breathing a sigh of relief, again, I pivoted and adapted; back to juggling both an inpatient and outpatient caseload. Staying the course by continuing to support my patients and my colleagues as we adapted to these challenging and unprecedented times. With the roll-out of vaccines gathering steam in early 2021, my heart sang to the uplifting lyrics of Roseanne Cash in Land of Dreams during my lunch time music breaks.Today, as I finish this recap of my story through this year in our collective and shared organizational history, I am reminded that all of us have experienced this pandemic in different ways as in that now famous saying - same storm, different boats. My experience is just one story of dealing with the uncertainty and I am very aware of my position of privilege and good luck. It was not always easy to deal with the repeated need to pivot and adapt, but it helped to have clear communication from administration, inspiring music on my playlist, and support from my work colleagues (especially my braid & running shoe buddies) and my family at home.Dr. McLachlan’s Pandemic Play-list Nightswimming by R.E.M.Walking in Memphis by Marc CohenHome, We’ll Go by Walk Off the EarthBurden by Foy VanceIt’s Alright by Mother Mother Land of Dreams by Roseanne Cash
Working in healthcare as an Occupational Therapist, during a pandemic, has been quite an experience. Back in March 2020, I was taking a temporary full-time position (away from my full time position in mental health) at the Residential Rehab and Complex Medical Care (CMC) programs. At the time, Residential Rehab started discharging clients, due to the pandemic restrictions, and I was sent to Emara CMC 3 South full time. I was to travel the week of March Break to Florida for a course in Vestibular Rehabilitation but decided to cancel, which ended up being a wise decision as travel restrictions were being put into place. Being of Italian decent, and having a lot of family in Italy, I was well informed of what was happening there and started taking precautions for my family’s health in the case that Canada would fall into similar circumstances. At the time, my children were ages 3, 6 and 7. Since my parents were my full-time child care providers and have underlying health issues as well as advanced age, my husband and I made, what we believed to be the best decision with the knowledge we had of COVID-19, to bring my children to live full time with my parents. On March 16, the day of my birthday, I spent the evening packing my children’s clothing and essential belongings. The next morning on my way to work, I dropped my three daughters, and their packed belongings, off to my parents. In the coming months, I only saw them from the window and doorway. It was difficult for them to understand why mom and dad were not bringing them home. Upcoming celebrations and holidays were canceled and not spent together. Life was different and my once busy home was quiet and depressing. When the weather warmed, it was nice to be able to see my girls in my parents’ back yard. It was hard to explain to young children why they could not come within six feet of mom and dad and why we could not accept their embraces. One particular day, when we were on an outdoor visit, my youngest was running around and fell to the ground. She began to cry and started for me in hopes for me to pick her up and comfort her. She was stunned when I pulled back shaking my head telling her she could not come near. My mother had to pick her up to console her. It was heartbreaking. The daily drive to work from Leamington to Windsor was almost eerie. There were always scarce cars on the road. The first few weeks at HDGH were very surreal. Fellow staff members weren’t themselves. Emotions were all over the place and the wonder of the unknown of what may come was always present. Physio and Occupational Therapy moved into patient rooms. Gowning, visors and double masking while providing rehab sessions was trying. Schools and daycares closed. Staff that were returning from time out of the country were required to self quarantine, so staffing was short. The once bustling halls were almost quiet. Visitors could not come see their loved ones; the affliction that this caused on both inpatients and their family members was so easily seen. It was beautiful to see staff pull together to be the best healthcare providers they could be while at the same time the emotional support for the inpatients. The staff worked so well together through this with incredible dedication. Pandemic pay, although a great show of acknowledgment, the dispersal of funds by the government, fell short in truly capturing all of the essential workers. Despite the feeling of being left out, we all supported one another and pushed forward. Staff completed duties outside their normal rolls to help where needed. I remember changing many adult briefs and helping patients toilet. I had a newfound appreciation for all the work nurses and other staff do. In May of 2020, I was able to return to my regular position on the Assertive Community Treatment Team. For those unfamiliar with the program, ACT is a model indicated for adults with severe and persistent mental illness and is comprised of a multidisciplinary team whom see clients in office, at their home and within the community. Another program that was normally very busy, had an uncanny quietness due to the pause put on groups and activities available to our clients. Community Service such as Canadian Mental Health Association programing and Mental Health Connections, were deemed non-essential and shut down. These services were critical in maintaining wellness in our client population. Because of this, these duties fell to ACT to problem solve as so much of these coping techniques were taken away from our clients. During the beginning days of the COVID-19 pandemic, ACT had the most admissions and discharges it has had in the program’s history. The team was required to adjust how clients would be seen. The telephone and the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) had to take over many client-worker meetings that were traditionally done in person both in office and in the community. Staff did an amazing job in adjusting the methods in treating clientele with their increasing anxieties and mental health needs. Beyond all this, the ACT nurses had to taken on extra duties at the Isolation Recovery Centre (IRC ) to administer methadone to the city’s residents that were isolating at the hotel with known and suspected COVID diagnosis. The staff teased that downtown Windsor looked apocalyptic. There were scarcely anyone on the streets. We laughed as some staff reported seeing wild turkeys in our downtown Ouellette parking lot and city sidewalks. Transit Windsor was temporarily non operational. Businesses were closed and no one had anywhere to go, so the normally busy downtown streets were bare. The exception was seeing the daily long line of people in que to get into the COVID-19 testing centre, which could be seen from the ACT office window. Because we see our clients predominantly in the community, staff found it very difficult to find washrooms to use while seeing clients throughout the county. We are sometimes all day in the community. Without the children home, I spent my home time sewing masks and making ear savers. Because stores were closed, and I had difficulty finding buttons to make traditional ear savers, I had to come up with something from my crafting supplies. That is when I came up with the "Mask Hero" elastic and snap ear saver style. Staff I brought them to loved them so I began listing them on my Etsy page and they really took off and received fantastic reviews. My goal was to make enough money to take my family (the girls who were temporarily living with my parents to keep everyone safe) to Disney. Just over a year later, I have a patent pending on them and have sold and donated over 25,000. This pandemic started off with tons of stress and lost family time but now my daughters help me each night process and ship orders and are learning how to run a home business.The girls did return home mid May 2020 when my husband was able to temporarily work from home. The uncertainty of school being open and closed to in-class learning has been one of the greatest stresses as a working mom. When schools were open, I have been very happy that HDGH has allowed me leave of absence at the end of the day, during the school year, so that I am able to go home to get my children off the bus, keeping them away from their grandparents who had not yet been vaccinated. As a healthcare worker, I understood the need for the school closures and need to move to online learning, however, because women generally tend to take on more of the responsibilities of child rearing, teaching the children, as well as other family responsibilities, this really penalized women and set them back generations. Mothers were paying a large career penalty during this pandemic. Sadly this was my truth. It was necessary for me to take all afternoon shifts so that I could be home to assist with online learning during the day. Overall, like many others, this has been a stressful year. COVID-19 has taught many that life is precious and that family and friends matters most. I have learned to slow down and appreciate this. Never take trips, family time and health for granted. The kids are very much looking forward to that Disney trip that we are hoping to take as soon at it is safe to do so.
On March 18, 2020, I was to attend a concert that I have always wanted to go to. Pearl Jam was to play in Toronto. My husband and I were so excited but this quickly changed as this was the week that shut the world. COVID-19 took over my thoughts. As Hôtel- Dieu Grace Healthcare began to make decisions on how to move forward, I began to feel guilty. As a Respiratory Therapist, I felt I should have been at the frontline battling this horrific respiratory disease with my friends and colleagues in acute care. As an RT, I was trained to step up to battle a pandemic firsthand but I couldn’t because my role as an operations manager did not allow for this. I struggled, felt ashamed and truly believed that I was doing my profession an injustice. One day walking onto the unit, my staff had posted a new saying on our bulletin board. It said “TOUGH TIMES DON’T LAST BUT TOUGH TEAMS DO”. This brought tears to my eyes and helped me realize that my role here at HDGH was just as important as my colleagues’ role in acute care. To this day I don’t believe they know how much that sign helped me get through each day. I had patients and staff that I needed to protect. I needed to ensure I did everything within my power to keep everyone safe. As a result of this realization, I set out on a journey to learn everything I could about COVID-19, how it spread and how we needed to protect ourselves. After work, I would go home and immerse myself in videos and articles, remember knowledge is power! In the beginning I worked 19 days in a row, sometimes 10-12 hours per day and when I finally had a day off I could not let the thought of COVD-19 go. I was scared for my family, I was scared for my friends, and I was scared for my staff and patients. On March 20, 2020, HDGH made the difficult decision to close its doors to all visitors. I must admit that this is probably one of the hardest days I have experienced as a manager. I spoke with each patient and their family to let them know that they would no longer be able to see their loved one. Many tears were shed that day as I cried alongside both patients and their families. I went home and hugged each one of my four kids and my husband as I could not imagine not being able to see them if they were in hospital.Months passed and although the workload on the unit was much different than in the past, we were doing a great job at keeping COVID out. A new Designated Care Partner program was developed in order to allow for individuals to come and participate in the care of their loved ones. Just as we were getting into a flow, Wave two hit. This is when I put forth my name to go into Long Term Care (LTC) to help, as I knew they were struggling. I received a call and presented to LTC on Monday, December 21st. Others from HDGH were also there to offer a helping hand. I was brought up to one of the units to find three others individuals from HDGH and some agency staff. No one from the actual LTC home was working that day and it was the first day on the unit for us all. It was a bit chaotic at first but we all banded together to ensure that all patients were cared for. It was a very emotional time, one day you were helping feed a resident, the next day they were refusing to eat and the next day you would hold their hand as they passed away. I am so thankful to have been able to provide companionship to those residents in their last moments. A total of 11 residents passed in the four days leading up to Christmas. I cried in my car every night on my way home from work.On January 6, 2021, I was asked to leave the LTC home and go to a Rest/Retirement home that was in dire need of help. The moment I arrived, I felt that I would not be able to protect my family from the risk of me bringing COVID home. I decided to move into a hotel and I stayed there for two weeks. Two HDGH colleagues also made the decision to stay at the hotel. I am thankful for this as we supported one another through the long days at work and the nights of being away from our families.Within the first ten minutes of arriving at the Rest/Retirement home I made the decision to send one of the residents to the emergency room via EMS. This was the first of many; we often saw three EMS rigs pull up to take one of the residents to acute care. At first, it was a daily occurrence. Many staff were also affected so we had to rely on our community partners for the nursing care for the residents. HDGH staff, Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) staff, and a few of the Rest/Retirement Home staff would complete twice daily assessments, complete med passes and provide emotional and mental health support to all of the residents. In late January, I was informed that my unit at HDGH was declared to be in outbreak. I immediately felt the need to go see my team in order to support their emotional needs as they were dealing with the news. I reached out to the management team and they comforted me as they ensured that all staff and patients on my unit were being looked after and the team was coping well with the news. I was extremely grateful to my fellow managers as I knew their workload had increased with me being offsite for so long. Again, I remembered that TOUGH TIMES DON’T LAST BUT TOUGH TEAMS DO!As the situation at the Rest/Retirement home started to improve, I was given the responsibility to oversee their vaccination program. This is the first time that I was able to interact with the residents as they smiled and celebrated hope; hope that their lives could return to normal, hope that COVID-19 would no longer be able to ravish through the home. On February 8, 2021, I returned to HDGH. Although, it felt great to be back, I do not regret making the decision to go to LTC. I feel that I was able to make a difference in so many people’s lives. If asked to volunteer again I would be the first to put my hand up. I would like to thank all those HDGH staff whose paths I crossed during this journey. We supported and encouraged one another each day as we focused on what we needed to accomplish as a team. We now have a common bond and I am truly blessed to have worked with all of you.
Hello, my name is Dave Cassidy, President of Local 444. I represent 10,000 active and 10,000 retired members who work or have worked in the auto, gaming/hospitality, auto parts, retirement home, aerospace, garbage/recycling, fisheries, trucking, auto hauling, energy/power industry and ferry transportation mainly here in Windsor-Essex County. This past year has easily been the most difficult of my career. For context, let me go back just a few weeks before March 2020. On February 27 at 2:00 pm, FCA (now Stellantis) informed me they were cancelling the third shift at the Windsor Assembly Plant. Devastating news for our community with potentially thousands of job losses and many of our members out of work. This news, obviously, was not well received. ,Fear and uncertainty were already knocking at our doors. With March came COVID-19, and almost immediately after invading our shores, panic set in. The announcement came from the government to close the casinos and hundreds more of our members were instantly out of work. Some are still out of work and are suffering today. We have lost some of our retirees to the virus. As well, it has prevented our retirees from seeing and caring for their loved ones. Our assembly and feeder plants were open, then closed, then open again under the guise of being "essential." Not only were we trying to find answers, solutions and give comfort to all of our members who now found themselves out of work, we had to do the same for those who were afraid to go into work. Our very social local with our meetings, picnics, golf tournaments, marches, parades, special gatherings, many of the events that we thought defined who we are came to a grinding halt—first time since the inception of our Local in 1956. These have been hard, dark times for me personally. Though I have a great team and tons of support as the President, I put much of our member's burdens on my shoulders. I can remember distinctly a day or two after the third shift announcement, and the casino announced being closed and the phone ringing off the hook from our members who were terrified to go to work into the plants, that brought me to a place mentally and emotionally where I do not think I have been before….and I did not like it. A quote I remember reading, and I hope you also enjoy the irony of its author- "In times of great stress or adversity, it is always best to keep busy, plow your anger and energy into something positive." Lee Iacocca. This is what I have always done: channel all of my stress, energy and anger into going to work and outworking my adversary. And go to work I did. I have logged my hours and have taken less time off this past year than any other year in my life. There was plenty of stress, adversity and anger that I was plowing into something positive. I was determined not to allow this virus to define who we are as a Local Union. We fought this virus at the bargaining table because of all years, this was the year where most of our contracts were due, including our biggest with Detroit 3. And we did not let this virus dictate a lower worth for our members. We learned quickly how to host virtual meetings, hold strike authorizations and ratify contracts online. This past year has been the harbinger of death to jobs for our members, and sadly it continues, but we will not stop fighting! We will continue meeting with government officials to open our casinos to a fair, sensible capacity to battle for EI reform and a made-in-Canada auto policy. With all the uncertainty and fear of the unknown, I wanted our Local to be the anchor in this storm when our member's sails were torn. Like Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Ford, I went to the members virtually every week to let them know where we were and to assure our members we were getting through this together. We highlighted positive stories of hope in our social media, held virtual concerts for our members and found ways to gather within the rules with drive-thru events that brought thousands of people safely to our Local. We were the first Local to host a retiree meeting virtually (if you ever helped your parents with the internet, you understand this was a fantastic feat). We saluted and fed our frontline workers. We handed out hundreds of gallons of Windsor-made hand sanitizer to our medical and elderly care places, distributed hampers of food to those in the county, and turkey dinners to our casino members. Our Local and many of us had to adapt to our new realities, and I want to give kudos to the staff and the Foundation Board at HDGH. It is not easy to change your mindset or modify and shape your events to continue to raise money for the charitable foundation. This virus has thrown many for a loop; often, boards throw up their hands and cancel everything. But not the staff or the HDGH Foundation Board. They put their heads together and came up with some creative ideas to raise money for the worthy causes people in this community depend on. A few examples are the HDGH Big Night which is usually the hottest ticket in town for a beautiful gala of fine dining and complementary entertainment to raise money for mental health programs. The event continued virtually, with delivered specialized boxes that included a fantastic meal, a movie, gourmet popcorn and many extras. As well, they had online auctions and draws. A great night in the middle of a pandemic still managed to raise $50,000 towards helping those struggling with mental health in our community. HDGH also teamed up with my local as we handed out support for our frontline worker's lawn signs for a donation. Hundreds of signs were picked up, and the money donated went towards coffee and donuts and BBQs with the help of Unifor Local 2458 to many of our frontline workers here in our community. The Bob Probert Ride was unfortunately cancelled, but again, HDGH is teaming up with Unifor Local 444 to sell tickets for a Harley Davidson draw to raise money for Mental Health and Addictions Services. This past year has been a real test of everyone's will to move forward. Our Local and the good folks at HDGH have proven that working together only strengthens our resolve not to let this virus or any other adversity define who we are. Instead, how we come through this better and stronger on the other end is how we will determine who we are. In solidarity Dave Cassidy
When COVID-19 first hit Windsor I was employed by Sun Parlor Nursing Home as a personal support worker while completing my second year of my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) degree. Many agencies and organizations needed help as they anticipated the effects of this pandemic so, as summer was arriving, I applied to a position at Erie Shores Heath Care (ESHC) and was hired as a screener. Throughout the summer I worked long days as a screener and doing outreach work with ESHC. This included going to the farms and testing the farm workers. This was such a humbling experience and one that I will never forget. The long, hot days of wearing layers upon layers of PPE came with exhaustion for us, however, it did not outweigh the fear that the farm workers had about getting tested, getting sick and dying alone without their families and loved ones. As a screener I was the gatekeeper for visitors and loved ones who could not enter the hospital. It was an impossible task to turn away those that were filled with worry and sorrow. The importance of family centered care and an accountable support system vanished initially to protect our communities but, just as it saved many lives’ it also caused distress in the community. Victims of COVID-19 died alone, first time mothers had appointments alone, children were only allowed one parent to accompany them but, we continued to learn, and we continued to find innovative ways to provide the best care in the safest ways. A world that feared a future of technology suddenly became dependent on it, the elderly navigated iPads and iPhones, communities were connecting from around the world, game nights, movie nights and trivia nights were occurring in thousands of places at the same time. We were able to adapt and change just as we always do, and we did it with a sense of understanding and hope. When September came, I began my third year and ESHC was able to fill the positions for screeners with individuals that had varying education backgrounds. This is when Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) was looking for trained individuals in the nursing field to assist in caring for patients during their recovery and rehab. As a nursing student I felt I needed to go where my skills could be best used and as I started my last semester of third year, I also started my position at HDGH as a member of the Patient Care Team. This came with more valuable experiences and even more challenges to overcome. As the waves of COVID-19 rolled through Windsor-Essex each came with protests, anti-maskers, more confusion, hopelessness and anger within our community. It wasn’t easy, it still isn’t easy, and nursing will never be easy however, there is no field that I would rather be studying. I often struggled to look above the waves and remember why I chose this field. As I was buried in exhaustion, stress, anger and hopelessness I would often look around and there would be one patient, one co-worker or one loved one that would help me swim again. The ability to care for and be of service to others is one of the most rewarding positions to be in. I was able to care for patients that were healing, growing and learning just as I was. We shared laughs, tears and many stories. I stood on the bedside of those who were passing, and I encouraged those who were healing. I was able to stand beside my team when we were strong, and I stood behind them when they needed support just as they would stand behind me. Every experience, every person and every day helped me to recognized how I am truly blessed to be a part of this community that cares for the wellness of other humans, regardless of beliefs, race, gender, abilities or age. It has been a fast paced, humbling time full of opportunity and new knowledge. There have definitely been hardships, but I have watched so much love, support and hope grow in the past year and a half, it is impossible to focus on just the bad. As I prepare to complete my final year as a nursing student, I am excited to be a part of such an incredible and supportive community as a nurse. Stay safe, be kind and check in on one another.
I began my journey at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare June 1, 2020, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. I had such a mix of emotions. I was so excited to be working at the hospital but at the same time, I felt somewhat nervous…not the typical kind of nervousness that you feel when starting a new job. I was fearful of COVID-19 and all of the unknowns but I was also beyond excited to be working in the profession doing exactly what I love. I think back and still remember my very first day of work, walking around the units meeting all of my fellow co-workers. I introduced myself, without a handshake, but rather exchanging a few words alongside a smile that was hidden behind my mask. It is strange to think that I have been working here for over a year now and only have seen my co-workers with a mask hiding half of their face. Even though their smiles were hiding behind a mask I could still tell by their eyes that they were smiling, which was a very welcoming feeling.Over the first five months I began to feel more comfortable and at ease with the virus, wearing my mask and shield. But then... the outbreak at HDGH happened on the floor I had been working on at the time. My role of floating around the hospital changed and suddenly so did my usual routine. My face was squished behind an N95 mask, not required, but because it helped me feel more at ease and safer. One of the hardest things to hear is the news that your co-workers got COVID-19 and were fighting this awful unknown sickness alone. At the start of the outbreak, I still remember coming into work with so much worry. Stress was an understatement and the fear grew more than ever. It was then that I started to eat my lunch in the car. I was scared of going to the cafeteria to eat around others. The winter months were too cold to eat outside so my car felt like the safest place. I was scared to take my mask off- so I would not even take a sip of water throughout the day. It was heartbreaking seeing these sick patients with no family surrounding them, with no visitors coming in to see them. Our role has always been surrounded by patient care and always about going above and beyond our job title, but during those times, more than ever, we had to be these patients’ families. They were in isolation, stuck in their rooms alone and we were the ones seeing them every day. Our hair was underneath scrub caps, faces behind masks and shields and our bodies wore a yellow gown. As many patients said, “you all look the same.” Now fast forward a few months later and we are seeing post COVID-19 patients come through our hospital doors for rehabilitation. We are now helping these patients through their recovery. I think back on this past year and all of the mixed emotions, and although there were many days coming in where I was stressed, it was the comfort of each other that inspired me everyday. I am so fortunate to have such a strong supportive group of co-workers who are all so hard working and determined. I consider myself lucky to be part of such a team. When things got tough and stressful it was comforting knowing that through it all… we all stood strong together.
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